JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A Jacksonville charter school had the potential of closing its doors after this school year after its renewal was denied by the charter advisory board.

Parents stepped in to state their case. According to the ZECA School of Arts and Technology, this is the second school to ever have its non-renewal decision from the Charter School Advisory Board reversed by the State Board of Education.

“The importance of this school, not just to academia, but to a community, it’s the things people don’t see,” said Culture Consultant for ZECA School of Arts and Technology, Life Dean.

The ZECA school has around 100 students, from Kindergarten to eighth grade. The school has a heavy focus on using the arts for educational purposes but is really known for its social and emotional programs.

The school was approaching the end of its 10-year charter in June. In the winter, officials applied to the Charter School Advisory Board for a renewal.

“They are looking at your board of government, they’re looking at your financial history, they’re looking at your academic history,” said Stacey Owens-Howard, founder and CEO of ZECA.
“They’re looking at different components, right before they decide if they want to renew your charter.”

The only issue was the academic portion, looking at their growth and their standardized test scores

“Our students may not be meeting the 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s on the end-of-grade test. But they show when they come in, when they exit, or from the beginning of the year to end of the year they show growth, while the growth model is only 20%,” said Owens-Howard.

Their renewal was denied, but the final decision was ultimately up to the State Board of Education. The southeastern regional representative on the board of education met with the parents of ZECA about their thoughts. One parent said this school means the world to her child, and her daughter agreed.

“It really helped my child come out of her shell and how, when she was in public school, she was so far behind,” said Yolanda Holliday. “Attending this charter school, it really brought her all the way out and she’s excelling in everything.”

After hearing from the parents about how much the school meant to them, the State Board of Education decided to renew their charter for three more years, with stipulations.

“I am glad that the State Board of Education even saw that school impact is greater than just one marker,” said Owens-Howard.

Following the ZECA School, the State Board of Education is giving other charter schools in similar situations three-year renewals as well.

The ZECA School of Arts and Technology is now accepting applications for the 2023-2024 school year.